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L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti defends maskless pictures: 'I hold my breath'

Garcetti and other top politicians and celebrities didn't cover their faces at the 49ers-Rams game during photos, drawing blowback from critics of mask mandates.
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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti claimed he held his breath while failing to mask up at a football game, drawing widespread criticism — and mockery — on Wednesday.

He was among top politicians and celebrities at Sunday's San Francisco 49ers-Los Angeles Rams playoff game at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles and hobnobbed with basketball legend Magic Johnson, who posted images of his high-profile pals on Instagram.

Garcetti, Gov. Gavin Newsom, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, actor Rob Lowe, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and other Golden State VIPs were not wearing their masks when cameras clicked, Johnson's Instagram showed.

In a picture with Johnson and Breed, Garcetti was holding a mask in his left hand while making a “No. 1” gesture with his index finger.

Fans at mass outdoor gatherings are required to wear masks unless they're actively eating, under Los Angeles County mandates and SoFi Stadium rules.

Garcetti said he did follow those rules on Sunday and only removed his mask when pictures were snapped.

"I wore my mask the entire game and when people ask for a photograph, I hold my breath," he told reporters Tuesday.

“There’s a zero-percent chance of infection from that,” said Garcetti, the son of former L.A. County District Attorney Gil Garcetti.

Garcetti's explanation proved to be an easy punchline for critics, especially among opponents to mask mandates.

"Gavin was judicious. Garcetti held his breath," Assemblyman James Gallagher tweeted on Wednesday. "C'mon man. Stop. They don't really believe masking is necessary. Nor did any one else around them or anyone in that stadium for that matter. End of story."

Image: NFL: NFC Championship-San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams
Mostly maskless Rams fans cheer against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. Gary A. Vasquez / Reuters

Pictures of the 73,202 fans who attended Sunday's NFC Championship Game seemed to show very limited mask wearing overall.

But even if Garcetti's behavior matched an overwhelming majority of those at SoFi Stadium, his explanation was still grist for mockery.

"I won't 'hold my breath' and wait for Garcetti to admit the real reason why he defied Democrats' own indoor mask mandate," tweeted U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, whose central Missouri district office is about a five-hour drive from the Rams' former home in St Louis. "'Rules for thee, but not for me.'"

The Rams won Sunday's NFC title game 20-17, advancing them to the Super Bowl, which will also be played at SoFi Stadium on Feb. 13.

Pro football's title game, between L.A. and the underdog Cincinnati Bengals, is set to be televised by NBC.